A Man Died Next To Me

Steven Wendel on January 30, 2018

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We loaded all 8 of us onto the British Airways flight with much exhaustion, heading home after a very busy but blessed time with family over the Christmas holiday.  We had managed the typical airport hurdles: rental car return, boarding passes that only partially printed out at the kiosk, overweight bags redistributed, additional security checks and body scans for most of us (seriously we’re a magnet for additional screening), and last-minute potty emergencies. 

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

                                              -James 4:14

As we sat waiting to taxi for takeoff, a woman several rows behind began shouting, first alarmed, but escalating into hysteria, “Jakub! Jakub! Jakub!” Each shout more desperate. I’d seen the couple board ahead of us, mentally noting how they looked young and contemporary, sporting a central/eastern European hipster style that didn’t try too hard. In some other context, I might have initiated a conversation and try to befriend them. Now Jakub’s lifeless body sat upright but entirely limp, jaw hanging unhinged, and eyes open yet vacant.  She began shaking him and slapping his cheek, willing him to come back to her.  I began to pray for Jakub as the rest of the passengers immediately around him looked on with shocked stares and confusion.

Some life returned to his eyes and he slowly regained a very disoriented and sub-par consciousness. The ambulance arrived and Jakub was strapped into a portable wheelchair and carted off the plane with significant other in tow.  It still affects me remembering those confused moments, wondering if I was watching a young and strong man mysteriously die before my eyes, and the powerlessness of everyone around.  

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How is it that I should be so mindful of this physical confrontation with death, when spiritual death abounds daily in my presence?  May we never be as those confused bystanders, failing to interpret what we see around us!  In every place we find ourselves in 2018, may we be a clear light to those who are perishing in darkness. May the gospel of Christ be clearly and relevantly spoken so that spiritual life might overcome death!  May we each be reminded that this is our purpose daily as followers of Jesus Christ, for our days are short.